Engineers Without Borders: Water Containment System in Honduras

The Engineers Without Borders-USC Project in Corral de Piedras is only one of two EWB-USC projects. Both are located in Honduras in two villages very close to each other and both are projects to give these villages access to clean water, which they do not have. The CDP project specifically is a rainwater catchment system located at the school house in CDP. This is a very spread out village with several “barrios” which is why we decided on the schoolhouse as a good central location to get started on. This is phase one of a plan to give the entire village access to clean water. This trip is an implementation trip to actually start building this system, which is comprised of a gutter, a first flush system and 2 tanks (with ability to expand to four in the future) to store water.

On Friday afternoon, Luciano, Josue, and Sarah arrived in Marcala. Once we were settled in, we set up meetings with Fred and Diana, both from ADEC, the local NGO that is helping us out, and then settled for the night. Saturday we took our first trip to the schoolhouse site. Upon arrival, it was obvious that Alfonso (our contractor) had a different plan for the foundation than us. They had, essentially, excavated a trench of small width and large depth. We had asked for an 8´´x 20´x 20´ hole, however they had dug the trench and left the middle in, creating a box within the foundation. Our plans originally called for the foundation to be entirely underground, and they had thought that it was going to be almost entirely above ground. They wanted an above ground foundation, because they were concerned with rainwater and dirt flowing over the foundation during periods of hard rain. In the end, we compromised and decided to make a half below and half above ground foundation.

After those details had been sorted out, we worked on the issue of getting water to the schoolhouse for our concrete mixing. We decided the easiest way would be to use the medium (approx. 100 gal) tanks at the schoolhouse to collect water. We would run hoses a spring and then create a pipe to drain into the tanks. Being done with these plans, we returned to Marcala and went to the hardware store to start collecting and buying necessary materials. On Sunday, we returned to the schoolhouse and bent 12 of the hooks we would be using to hold the tanks to the foundation. We also begun excavating the necessary amount from the middle of the foundation site. In the afternoon, the rest of the group, Lily, Kristen, Max, and Thomaz arrived. We took them to the site and explained the situation and problems that had taken place. After that, we ran the hoses to the spring and filled up the medium tanks with water for the concrete mixing. Finally, we continue excavating the site to get closer to the desired depth.

The following day we continued preparing the terrain for the foundation. We needed to continue leveling it out since they had not done that yet and we needed it to be at a smoother grade. The community was very very eager to help us out, which at times could prove to be a challenge since we didn’t always have stuff we needed them to do. We started to get more and more comfortable with their construction methods and learn with them so it became easier for them to help out. In the end our design ended up being a compromise between our original design and what they thought was best. The community is so excited about this project since it will give the kids in the village access to cleaner water than they have now. The only access to water at the school house now comes from a spring, but it is not very clean, let alone proper for drinking.

Internet access has been an issue as it is not readily available in Marcala, the small town nearby where we are staying. There is no way for us to post pictures at this point, but we will be able to do so when we are back in the US.